Category Archives: Small boat cruising

Further Adventures In DIY Boat Maintenance

Exactly a month ago I wrote about removing the old, frozen outboard motor bracket from the boat…  https://onemoregoodadventure.com/2019/10/01/the-cruising-life/. As of yesterday the new bracket is now sitting jauntily on the transom. It wasn’t easy!

You have to know a bit about me to understand how difficult the job was. I’m 77 years old. I operate on lungs with a bit less than 40% of capacity due to COPD. I have three arterial stents and my fingers are gnarled from arthritis. I live full time on a Venture22 sailboat anchored off of Coquina Beach, Anna Maria Island, Florida, a bit south of Tampa Bay. Most of my adult life I made my living on the water either operating boats or repairing the damned things.

I tried to install it a week or so earlier but couldn’t do it. I I thought if I could get one or two of the 5/16″ bolts through the holes it might hold up well enough until I could climb down under the port seat in the cockpit to get the nuts on. And I’m trying to do this in a dinghy! The damned thing is heavy at 20 lbs and wakes coming in from the nearby Intracoastal Waterway had me bouncing up and down. Kersploosh! One of the bolts drops off into Davy Jones’s locker. Certainly a pain, but from years in the business, even though there are only four holes to be filled I bought FIVE bolts.

This wasn’t going to work so I gave up for the time being. I made a couple of calls to guys I know who are anchored up above but got no reply. So I’m thinking over the next couple of days, “What would I do if I was off on some deserted island by myself? How would I be able to cope and get the job done?

I pondered for a couple of days and then it hit me. I’d been going at it from the wrong direction! If I had a bolt sticking OUT of the transom it should be easier to get one of the holes to slip over IT than to try and get a bolt to slip into what is a small, moving hole. In my container of assorted odds and ends I found a 3” long bolt and nut and a couple of fender washers. The strange thing I notice as I’m digging through the stuff is that I’ve got a good assortment of bolts but, oddly, very few nuts to fit anything.

So, I have to climb down under the portside cockpit seat and it’s not easy. For the benefit of those who didn’t read the previous post this is the challenge…

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Best case scenario is that I’ll only have to do this three times. Did I tell you I still believe in Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny?

I toss the bolt back to the transom and dive into the hole head first and inchworm my way aft. Though it’s a bare 7 feet, a half century of inhaling the smoke of licit and illicit substances has taken its toll and I have to pause a couple of minutes until my breath returns to normal. Or a reasonable facsimile of normal, anyway. Struggle my way out of the hole, into the cabin and up into the cockpit where I have to rest up for a few minutes.

I then wrestled the 20 pound  bracket down into the dinghy and, hand over hand, pulled my way to the stern. I tied the bow and stern of the dinghy off to keep from moving around as much as possible and then tied a length of paracord to the bracket and secured it to the stern railing so that if I lost my grip on the thing it wouldn’t fall into the water.

I lift the bracket up to set it on the protruding bolt and it nearly slides back into the hole. I forgot to secure it with duct tape as I’d planned.

Unfasten the bracket. Back around to the side of the boat and up into the cockpit. Down into the cabin where I rest for a couple of minutes before plunging into the hole again. A couple of pieces of tape over the head of the bolt only take a couple of seconds. That done, it’s inch my way topside again and tie up astern once more. Resecure the bracket to the stern railing and lift the bracket up onto the bolt. Holding it in place with one hand I slide a fender washer over the bolt and finger tighten the nut to hold the bracket steady while I put the bolts into the upper and lower outboard holes of the bracket. The holes aren’t exactly lined up but a couple of light taps with the small hammer I’ve brought along takes care of that, and the bolts are head-deep in the holes.

The problem comes with the inboard bottom hole. The way the thing is built the bolt (yellow arrow) protrudes too far to allow the head of the bolt to pass by and enter the pre-drilled hole (red arrow).

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Back into the boat cabin and dig out the cordless drill and a bit that will fit through the hole. I’ll drill all the way through the transom from the outside in the hole just above the intended one. It will be a pilot hole. Then, when I’m inside the hole again, with the proper sized bit, because that one won’t fit through the bracket hole, I’ll enlarge the hole until the bit bottoms out on the metal of the bracket.

Now I’m back in the hole for the THIRD TIME. Tighten the two lock tight bolts after fitting aluminum backing plates over the bolts and enlarge the new hole. I remove the tape from the pilot bolt and use some two-part epoxy stick putty to fill the hole that’s useless.

Outside and tied up to the transom again I remove the pilot bolt and put the new bolts into the holes. Back around to the side of the boat. Up into the cockpit. Down into the cabin. Squeeze into the hole. Inchworm my way to the transom and tighten the two final bolts.

DONE!! It looks cool back there. Today I just gave the go ahead to Cannon Marine down in nearby Longboat Key to order me a Yamaha 6 horsepower, long shaft, four stroke outboard. The price is nearly $300 less than a similar model Mercury outboard from West Marine or Bradenton Beach Marine. Monday I’ll know when it will be delivered. It has to be ordered from Yamaha as it’s not in stock but will be coming in with some other, larger engines they’re going to be ordering. When I get it I plan on doing a bit of cruising around the area. Up into the Manatee that goes through Bradenton and into Sarasota and the Hillsborough River that flows through downtown Tampa. I want to go up there and check out the Jean Street Boat Yard. It’s the only one close by (40 miles away) that will let you work on your boat yourself. I need to paint the bottom to fend off the barnacles and other flora and fauna that grow on it in these warm, shallow waters. An interesting side bar to the Jean Street yard is that it’s the oldest boat yard in the entire state of Florida, opening its doors for business in 1848!!!

 

 

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The Cruising Life

Some wag once said, “The cruising life is repairing your boat with inadequate tools in exotic locations.” The fact that I have only “cruised” about a third of a mile in the last six months does NOT negate that statement.

I’ve been struggling to remove the original outboard motor bracket on the port side of the transom. The boat had a 25hp Yamaha when I bought it. Much too big and heavy for such a small, light boat as a Venture 22.  It as a lousy engine, too boot. Broke down THREE TIMES between Ft. Lauderdale and Stuart. First time was in Boca Raton, about 20 miles from the start of my venture. It broke down again another 20 miles or so up in West Palm and finally in Stuart. If you searched for the term “hunk of junk” in the dictionary there’d be a picture of that outboard.

I replaced it with an old model 9.9 Mercury outboard. It took me from Stuart, across the state via the Okeechobee Waterway up to Carabelle in the eastern panhandle, and back down to Bradenton Beach where I live at anchor. Last year it took me from here to Cayo Costa and back, a journey of nearly 200 miles. The engine has worked like a charm for close to 2,000 miles. Its single shortcoming is that it’s a “short shaft” outboard and the prop cavitates when I’m rocked with the wakes of other boats and I really can’t use it when the seas are over 2 feet.

To work properly as auxiliary power for these small sailboats the outboards really need to be “long shaft.” Twenty inches, minimum, from where the engine attaches to the motor bracket to the cavitation plate rather than the 15 inches on the “short shaft” outboards. Five inches doesn’t seem like a lot. In fact, most women would scoff at that, but it makes a huge difference with an outboard motor. 

A little over a year ago I bought a second-hand Honda 9.9 long shaft 4 stroke outboard. I had another bracket, sometimes called a “jack stand” that I attached to the starboard side of the transom, and moved the Mercury to it, and put the Honda on the original bracket. 

I just never got the Honda working right. Problem with the idle speed. Since the Merc worked fine I never did what needed to be done to get the Honda working properly. So it sat on the stand for over a year. The bracket was never very good, either. I had to rig it with a block and tackle so I could raise and lower it when the Merc was on it. Over the year as the sailboat rocked and rolled in the wakes of passing boats and waves from storms the engine swayed back and forth on the stand. Sometimes worryingly so. Nothing I did with ropes got it to stay stationary.

I’ve been thinking about getting a BRAND NEW four stroke, long shaft motor for a long time. Actually since from about the time I bought the boat in the first place. But I needed to get rid of the Honda so I’d have a place to put a new motor. I DON’T want a used one. I want something BRAND NEW! I want something that if it poops I can take it in, after using the Merc to get me to the repair shop, and say, “Fix it! It’s on warranty!!!” 

Well, I sold the Honda a couple of weeks ago for almost as much as I paid for it. Damned thing was HEAVY. When it came off the bracket the rear end of the boat rose  a bit over two inches! I know, because the barnacles grow just at the waterline and there were over two inches of the buggers above the waterline with the engine gone.

Then I found that the bracket was frozen. The arms are slightly bent from the side to side action of the motor riding the waves. It’s impossible to raise or lower it. I bought a big breaker bar to try and get the bolts loosened up but no go. So the thing to do was to remove the bracket from the boat and see if I can straighten it out on shore. Easier said than done…

Heaven only knows how old the bracket is. Could be as old as the boat which was built in 1980! It’s attached to the transom by four bolts. Now, since I’m doing this unassisted, I have to slither through a small opening into the space beneath the cockpit seat to get to where the nuts are.

Once through that the space opens up a bit, but not a whole lot. Not enough to be able to sit up, so everything is done lying on my stomach. Here you can see where three of the bolts have been removed.

I got plenty of practice doing this sort of thing working as a rigger at a boatyard in New Orleans. But I’m 36 years older now, have arthritic hands, and less than 40% of normal lung capacity.

If everything goes well, HA! You work your way aft with your wrenches and take the bolt off. Easy Peasy, no? NO! These are lock-tight nuts. They have a plastic insert in the hole so they can’t vibrate loose.

I get the two lower bolts off easy enough. The top, inside nut is on an extra long bolt and the ratchet socket won’t fit over it. Of course I’m not prepared for this. I don’t have a box wrench or pliers with me . The top outside nut turns the bolt so it’s not coming loose.

Here’s why this is happening. Take a look at this more modern bracket.

See how the holes are square? They take bolts like these…

The square shoulders fit down into the squares on the bracket holes. This makes it easy to then go on the nut side of the bolt and fasten the nut without having someone on the outside holding it with a wrench to keep it from turning like happens with THESE…

 

 

Now I have to slither BACKWARDS out into the cabin to work out my next plan of attack. And don’t forget, I have serious COPD problems. I’m operating on about 40% of normal lung capacity so after doing something like getting out of the hole I have to sit for five minutes until my breathing gets back to what passes for normal.

I delve into my tool locker and dig out a pair of Vice Grips and my channel lock pliers. I don’t have a box wrench the proper size.  Over the side, into the dinghy and around to the bracket. I need to attach the Vice Grips to the bolt head. As the bolt is going to turn when I work on the nut, inside, the plier’s handle will also rotate until it comes to rest against one of the arms  keeping the bolt from turning further. OOOOPS. I know from experience that there’s a good chance the pliers might come loose. If that happens they’d fall into the water and be lost. So it’s back around to the side of the boat, up into the cockpit. Rest and catch my breath. Now, where the hell is that ball of twine? I’m not a super organized guy so it takes a while to find it. Back over the side into the dinghy. Around to the bracket. Hold on for a few minutes till my breathing is relaxed again.

After tying the twine to the pliers and securing it to a cleat,  I tighten the pliers onto the bolt head using both hands to lock them on. Back around to the side and up into the cockpit. Sit to catch my breath. Slither into the 16 inch hole and up to the transom. Rest to catch my breath. Use the channel locks to unfasten the nut. When it’s off I take the small hammer and whack away until the bolt end is flush with the transom. That sucker’s really in there. Rest for a few minutes to catch my breath. Agonizingly back out of the pit. Rest. Over the side into the dinghy and back to the bracket. pull the bolt the rest of the way out of the hole and reattach it to the remaining bolt head. Around to the side of the boat. Climb into the cockpit. Rest to catch my breath. Into the hole and work my way to the transom in a motion resembling an inch worm. Rest to catch my breath. Using the channel locks the nut starts working itself off the bolt. CLUNK! The Vice Grips have fallen off the bolt head. SHIT! F WORD! F WORD! F WORD!!!

Out of the hole. Rest. Into the dinghy and back to the bracket. See, I needed that twine. An eighth of a turn on the knob at the base of the pliers and a mighty squeeze with both hands gets them back on the bolt head. Around to the side of the boat, back in the cockpit. Rest. Back into the hole and inch worm my way to the transom. Rest. This time all’s good and the nut’s off. Back out of the hole. Rest. Over the side. Into the dinghy. Back to the bracket. Pull the bolt from the hole. Back to the side of the boat and into the cockpit. Rest. That part of the job is done.

Now I have to pry the bracket off of the transom. It’s stuck on, now, with silicone. Thank heaven it’s not done with 5200 which is the most tenacious adhesive sealant ever created. Silicone has the least adhesive properties of all the sealants, but there’s no telling how much was used when the bracket was attached. In any case, it won’t be easy getting it off. Since the holes on the old bracket are simply round, and not square like the new ones I’m not going to reuse it. I’ll buy a new bracket.

I’ve found a nearby marina down in Longboat Key has four stroke, 6 hp long shafts for sale for $1,650. That’s $200 less than the equivalent Mercury or Suzuki which will cover the cost of a new bracket. And, they’ll bring it up to me. They have to order it first, so it will take a while. Meanwhile I’ll work on removing the old bracket, order and install a new one.

WHEW!

 

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Filed under adventure, Boat Repair, cruising, Living Abroad, Living on the hook, Living Small, Minimalist Cruising, Outboard Motors, sailboats, sailing, Small boat cruising, Uncategorized

Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way

It will be no surprise to anyone when I say I LOVE weird boats and the people who construct them. So Imagine how much I enjoyed seeing this boat drift into the Bradenton Beach, FL, anchorage this morning and beach out in front of the Bridge Tender Waterfront Bar.

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The owner’s name is Dean and he likes traveling around and poking into out of the way places with his canoe. But, he said, it was too unstable to allow him to go certain places. So, he took a Standup Paddleboard and but it in half along the centerline. Topped it off with some light plywood. The amas are held in place with construction extrusions and everything is put together with hurricane clips and wing nuts so it can be easily assembled and disassembled.The mast sail comes from a small day sailer. The jib is an old shower curtain and is self furling with a snap shackle fitting.

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The lee boards were made from pine that he bought at Home Depot and glassed over. EVERYTHING was either scrounged, donated or came from a big box hardware store. He has a sleeping bag and a tarp to hide under when it rains. He spent the previous night anchored down in Sarasota Bay somewhere and was heading back there soon after we finished out conversation.

Never forget, whether you’re Dean on your cobbled together trimaran or a multi million dollar yacht the sunset’s exactly the same…

Oh, and as far as I’m concerned the crowning touch is the little mermaid figurehead!

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Filed under adventure, boats, Bradenton Beach, FL, homemade boats, Microcruising, Minimalist Cruising, sailboats, sailing, Small boat cruising, Small Sailboats, Uncategorized

That Time Of Year…

September is the most active month for tropical cyclones as they’re properly called. Here it is, the third day of the month and we’re already on edge…

“Oh, you live on a boat…that must be really cool.” That’s reason 347 for punching someone in the face.

Here’s what’s happening in MY world today.

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Lots of wind and rain. Have two anchors set. Got food and water. Generator is running and charging computer, iPad and phone.

Enjoy YOUR Labor Day!

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Filed under adventure, boats, Living on the hook, sailboats, sailing, Small boat cruising, Storm prep, Uncategorized

Everyone Has A Dream – You Need To Live Yours NOW!

Everyone has a dream. Some want to sail around the world. Others might want to pack up and live off the land in some wilderness area. Back to the earth. Buy an RV and see the USA. Who knows? But everyone has a dream yet most of them are never fulfilled. Why? Well Sterling Hayden pretty much nailed it in his book Wanderer when he wrote:

“‘I’ve always wanted to sail to the South Seas, but I can’t afford it,’ [so many people say]. What (they) can’t afford is not to go.  They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of ‘security.’  And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine–and before we know it our lives are gone.

“What does a man need–really need?  A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in–and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment.  That’s all–in the material sense. And we know it.  But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade.

“The years thunder by.  The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience.  Before we know it the tomb is sealed.”

Before you go any further with this post stop and reread that quote again and thing about how it applies to you and those around you. That quote had such an impact on me it changed my entire life. The power of words can do that to a person.

When I read that quote I wrote it down in my journal and in one form or another I’ve carried it around with me for the past forty one years. It was in 1971. I was working as the assistant public relations director of the largest non-profit hospital in the second most populace county in the State of Florida at the time. It wasn’t that I didn’t like my job. I did. Sorta. But the whole time I was doing it, and being impaled on my own free lance writing magazine articles, I was reading all the boating magazines and dreaming about being on a boat and sailing off to distant shores. And it hit me that 1) I was never going to have enough money to buy the boat I wanted to accomplish that dream. 2) I wasn’t willing to do what it took to make the kind of money it would take to accomplish that dream and 3) If you ARE willing to do what it takes to make that kind of money then you don’t have the time to be out sailing around in the first place until you’re probably too old to do it.

Everyone’s dream in their teens and early twenties or thirties has a young person pulling it off. Not someone who’s carrying around three stents in their arteries, taking pills twice a day to keep their blood pressure in check and whose fingers are gnarled from arthritis.

At about the same time as I read Wanderer I also read Viking’s Wake by Richard MacCullagh that contained a life-changing quote:

“And the bright horizon calls!  Many a thing will keep till the world’s work is done, and youth is only a memory.  When the old enchanter came to my door laden with dreams, I reached out with both hands.  For I knew that he would not be lured with the gold that I might later offer, when age had come upon me.”

I scaled my dreams way down from flashy boats that graced the pages of the yachting publications way down to one where I’d get a set of pontoons, perch a pickup camper insert on it and take off on the Intracoastal Waterway and perhaps do what is known as “The Great Loop” a water route that circles the eastern half of the United States.  But the reality of the situation was that I didn’t even have enough money to accomplish that. So when my wife and I parted company in the Great $16.25 Divorce (https://oldsalt1942.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/) I quit my job, got a job as a deckhand on a dinner cruise boat which led me to obtaining a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton license and living out many of my dreams including doing the “Great Loop” in 1974/75, a dozen trips up and down the Intracoastal Waterway, living on the French Riviera and the Costa del Sol for three years and sailing across the Atlantic Ocean on other people’s boats and getting paid to do it, too. I eventually bought my own small sailboat and did a single-handed trip (another dream) from Fort Lauderdale to Mexico, Belize and the Rio Dulce in Guatemala and back.

Recently I found some YouTube videos by someone who calls himself “Skipperfound.”He’s a guy who’s living his dreams. He sort of adapted my pontoon and camper shell idea with plans for taking the boat from Ludington, Michigan down to the Florida Keys. He has over 124 YouTube videos of this trip and other adventures: the conversion of a bus (he sold the boat in Panama City, Florida) and his travels in it, and building a tiny house. This video shows the early stages of the construction of the boat.

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Naturally when someone is doing something as offbeat as Skipperfound it attracts attention. Sometimes people doing the out of the ordinary get interviewed by newspapers along the way. Here he is explaining his reasons for doing what he does. I don’t know if he ever read Sterling Hayden of Richard MacCullagh or not, but he’s sure taken their advise to heart.

<object width=”560″ height=”315″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/o2Dh8ntaDt4?version=3&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0″></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param></object>

Finally thereis a quote from John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany:

“If you’re lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.”

 

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Filed under adventure, boats, cruising, homemade boats, Houseboat, Shanty boat, Shantyboat Living, Small boat cruising

Meteor Fizzle in Boquerón

Next to man-made fireworks I like celestial ones, too. Early this morning (Jan 4) there was supposed to be a super meteor shower from 2 a.m. on. The Quadrantids shower was hyped up to have upwards of 80 to 100 “shooting stars” per hour. I set my alarm for 2:30 hoping to see some pyrotechnics to possibly rival what the locals put up on Christmas and New Years Eves.  Well, it was a washout here, if, indeed, anyone could have seen them in Panama to begin with. It was heavily overcast with clouds and only three or four stars were visible through tiny holes in the sky. Oh, well.

I’ve seen one before. Often when I tell people about my single-handed cruise on my beloved “Nancy Dawson” back in 1992 people ask, “Don’t you wish you’d had someone with you?” Well, the answer, for the most part is “Not always, but there were some events it would have been nice to share with someone.”

One of those times was when I was anchored out off the tiny island of Ranguana Caye at the edge of the reef in Belize. It was a lovely, isolated spot and everything a tropical islet is supposed to be. Small, at the edge of a coral barrier reef with a long line of breaking surf off to seaward, and covered with dozens of coconut palms. I was anchored in about 7 feet of crystal clear water on the leeward side of the island. A gentleman I’d met in the small town of Placencia owned the island and was building three tiny cabins that he hoped would earn him his fortune renting them out to dive tourists. He and a couple of helpers would come out during the week to work on the cabins but most of the week I spent there I was by myself.

One night I was lying out in my hammock that I’d strung up between the mast and the fore stay. I had finished off the last of a righteous bud I’d bought a week before from “Dancing Sam the Rasta Man” who had a small house beside the town’s famous “sidewalk.” I reclined there in my hammock miles and miles from the nearest artificial light. There was no moon, even. Just this wonderful canopy of a gajillion stars in the sky above. Marcia Ball, Doctor John and the Neville Brothers drifted up from the boom box in the cabin below.

And then the light show began, as if just for me. It was early August and the earth was moving through the Perseids belt. Shooting stars blazed all across the sky. For the next couple of hours not a minute went by without at least two or three and often dozens of meteor trails shooting across the heavens. And when I’d look over the side of the boat long luminescent trails ran in all directions as medium-sized fish chased little fish and big fish chased the medium-sized ones all intent on a fresh sushi night cap. THAT’S when I wish I’d had someone along to share the moment with.

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The Ultimate Slacker’s Boat!!!

Murray Stevens instantly became my hero when he designed and built this —

Once again, another fine find from reading:

http://www.duckworksmagazine.com/11/reports/nov/index.htm

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